Sniffing Around

Task finds the man who heads the Web site that moved markets today. Plus, Greenspan gazing and an oops on eBay's Webcast.
Publish date:



(INTC) - Get Report

leading the way, major stock averages and the bond market reversed their recent downward spirals. (For more, see today's

Market Roundup.)

Another Party Heard From

Today's late selloff in Net stocks may have been attributable to

, which published a

report suggesting


(T) - Get Report

is about to launch a price war with

America Online


to be your (or somebody else's) Internet service provider. Once as high as 102 3/4, AOL closed off 2% to 98 3/16. Ma Bell rose a fraction.

I can't vouch for the veracity of the report, but I did catch up with Michael Porcelain, president of this evening, interrupting a family vacation in Oyster Bay, N.Y. (hey, he's the one who forwarded the number). is an online "money management and financial advisory firm" designed to compete against the likes of

Financial Engines



, he said.

The site offers free research, such as today's AT&T/AOL report, but "we're not in the business of being a news bureau," Porcelain said. "We will only issue research when we believe there's research not out in the mainstream press." He declined to reveal the source of today's story (good boy), other than saying it's someone "close to AOL."

Porcelain -- a CPA -- was formerly a manager in the financial advisory department of


. Other company officers have similar backgrounds with firms such as



Merrill Lynch





The site's "marketability" is that it's "100% independent, 100% objective," Porcelain said, noting does no corporate underwriting or advising.

The site is profitable, Porcelain claims, although he refused to discuss specifics. Fees are generated from a fee-per-question service, which features "human-based" advice; financial advisory services, including recurring money management fees and financial planning and portfolio review (minimum account is $50,000); advertising; and licensing payments from "affiliated" CPAs and financial planners, Porcelain said.

To date, the company is privately backed by venture capitalists and individuals "not involved in financial markets," he said, refusing to name names.

As for going public, Porcelain said a national marketing push is planned in the next six months but it would "probably" require an additional round of VC financing "to get us up to pre-eminent brand name."

They'll have to do something about that pesky profitability, too. Who ever heard of a Net IPO with profits?

The Special

It takes a tough reporter to cover the options beat, and there are few tougher than


Erin Arvedlund, who cut her teeth (here at least) on the hedge fund beat.

Options Players See Monday's Fear Feeding Tuesday's Rally gets the nod today for succinctly and clearly describing how action in the options pit underscored today's rally in the cash market.

Greenspan Gazing & Greenbacks



Alan Greenspan

is not expected to add much to last week's


testimony when he testifies before the

Senate Banking Committee

tomorrow. But that certainly does not make it a nonevent.

"Anything Greenspan may say about the dollar is very important to whether we have a sustained bounce to a new high or remain stuck in a trading range," said Peter Canelo, U.S. investment strategist at

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

. "He'll have to pay more attention to the dollar or someone will ask him."

The dollar rebounded a bit today, but yesterday traded at a 10-week low vs. the euro and at its lowest level vs. the yen since mid-February. Moreover,

The Wall Street Journal

today reported currency markets may be "testing" the strong-dollar mettle of newly minted



Lawrence Summers


But Canelo is largely unconcerned (in stark contrast to Morgan's chief global strategist Barton Biggs, who focused on the greenback during his standard "the sky is falling" routine on


this afternoon).

"If the dollar were in real trouble, I think bonds would be breaking down," Canelo said. "The bond market is assuming this isn't the end of the world. Plus, if the Fed is going to raise rates -- that's good for the dollar. If bonds stay here, I think stocks will try for a new high again. I don't think they can go very far, because the market is not cheap. But there's no big risk either. We have a nice balance of forces here which should keep the market in a trading range unless the dollar really tanks. And I don't see a reason for that."

Canelo chalked up much of the dollar's recent weakness to the fact it had "a heck of a rally" from last October through the beginning of this month. "Some profit-taking is in order. It's not a major problem."

Let's see if Greenspan is in agreement.

Boo! Hiss!

Yesterday's ditty about


(EBAY) - Get Report

cutting its conference call off when the Q&A session began sparked emails aplenty. Several readers pointed me to

, where this disclaimer was boldly printed: "The question and answer portion of this call will not be broadcast by the request of eBay Inc."

I apologize for passing along bad information -- that the shutdown was not intentional -- but it was culled from eBay's external PR firm (who you'd think would either know the truth or admit if they don't, but I -- perhaps naively -- believe the gaffe resulted from ignorance rather than malice).

Neither eBay's PR folks nor anyone from

Manning Selvage & Lee

, the source of the offending info, returned calls seeking an explanation today.

Meanwhile, what gives? I can certainly understand limiting who can ask questions. But I hope this (ill-conceived) idea of broadcasting management's boilerplate comments but omitting the Q&A doesn't become a trend.

Moreover, it's galling a company such as eBay, which prides itself on cultivating a "community," would shut out its shareholders -- and thus many of its members -- from the only part of the call worth its weight in routers.

Futhermore, I can't imagine shareholders are going to stand for it. You can't turn back the clock, baby.


Of course

I didn't ship those

Sports Illustrateds

before receiving payment from the would-be eBay buyer. Your concern is touching; your insults to my intelligence off-base (at least in this matter).

Press Perusing

We at

(and me in particular) love to point out gaffes by fellow journalists. So, in the essence of fair play, I'd like to note Greg Ip's piece today in

The Wall Street Journal

as the latest in a fine series about the changing landscape for stock exchanges.

Meanwhile, Ip's colleague Robert McGough included a reference to

Ricky Ricardo

and used the phrase "Here's the nut" in a separate story in today's paper.

Can you imagine such snarkiness in the


even a year ago, much less five?

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery (though credit for breaking news is nice, too).

Aaron L. Task writes daily for In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at